20 November 2012
City I Love: Yogyakarta, I'm in Love
Yogyakarta is a popular destination for both domestic and international tourists. It’s a special region located in the island of Java. The city is full of five stars hotels to comfort your sleep, top notch services to ease your travel, a haven for the shopping fanatics and fancy restaurants to satisfy your tongue.
Stop right there.
Yes all those mouth-watering offers might let you enjoy Yogyakarta, but the best way to embrace the city is to do what the locals do. So, leave your five stars hotel slippers and abandon the fancy taxi, get on a becak instead and I’ll show you why I fell in love with this city in the first place.
It was love at first sight. I was born here, back when bikes used to rule the city and the streets were not so crowded as today. At the age of 2, I left the city and then came back there to continue my study in senior high school and university. Of course, by the time I came back, things have changed. Bikes were replaced by motorbikes and the streets were more crowded. Nevertheless, there was a familiarity in the city that wouldn’t let me hate it.
Yogyakarta’s official name is Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta which is literally translated to “The Special Region of Yogyakarta”. Why is it special, you might ask? It is special because it is governed by a Sultan who is equivalent to a king and lives in a palace. It has the splendor of active volcano called the Merapi as well as the legendary famous beach Parangtritis and myths about it. Hundreds of rituals and traditions which are relatively normal to the locals but excitingly fascinating for travelers or tourists also make this city special.
Getting to know the people of Yogyakarta by knowing and get closer to their traditions. You can start your journey by visiting the palace of the Sultan called Keraton. By visiting the beautiful palace, you will hear myths and rituals being told or perhaps performed if you’re lucky enough. If you spot people wearing traditional clothes, these are the helpers of the Keraton. It is said that they work for free as they see it as a service to the Sultan. Though they don’t ask for anything in return, the palace usually gives them support, for example food and also education for their children. Say hello or ask them anything when you meet them.
Bakso stall by the Bethesda hospital is a favourite of mine
There are still plenty of food stalls which sell the locals’ favorite foods and snacks. Try sate babi (pork satay); you can find it in front of Kranggan street – it opens only at evening. Besides, there is also restaurant, Jejamuran, which offers menus with mushrooms as main ingredient. Try also the famous Thai food Phuket which can be found around the city, the sambal specialist Pondok Cabe and delicious mendoan, the meatball (bakso) which can be found by the side of Bethesda hospital. Those are a few of my favourites.
Last but not least, one more special thing about Yogyakarta is the friendliness of the people of Yogyakarta. As this city is a popular tourism destination and visited by many locals and international tourists, most sellers and people in the transportation systems understand basic English. Having a random conversation with a food seller or with a becak driver is another thing which makes this city so loveable. The flow of the conversation and the cheery responses create a sense of connection to everyone.
You can have a random conversation with almost everyone. I was once in a taxi ride where the driver started speaking Javanese, but then we both laughed because I couldn’t understand him. We then started talking about school and traffic.